Diplomat headquarters
PHARMACY

Diplomat focuses on specialty cost savings

BY David Salazar

Diplomat Pharmacy is focusing on curbing costs as prices rise. The Flint, Mich.-based specialty pharmacy said that throughout 2018, it would be implementing such measures as advancing generics, biosimilars and more affordable branded drugs. Company president Joel Saban said that high-cost specialty medication is fueling costs for health plans and patients.

“With 90 percent of traditional medications now filled as generics, specialty pharmacy costs are driving pharmacy spend for payers,” Saban said. “To offer real solutions to today’s challenges, we need a new model with a diverse set of assets. The need for specialty benefit management solutions has never been more urgent.”

Also as part of its cost-saving efforts, Diplomat is enhancing its split-fill program, which offers patients a two-week fill when starting a therapy that allows it to mitigate waste if the patient has to switch therapies early on. The company has increased the number of drugs in the split-fill program by 78%, Saban said.

“This program can save up to 50 percent per patient,” he said. “We give patients a two-week supply at the start of a new therapy. This allows us to mitigate waste in the event a patient needs to change therapies early on. In avoiding medication waste, we reduce spend for both the payer and patient.”

Diplomat said that it saves $2,400 per patient per month when using a generic oral oncology drug, and 1,800 per month per patient moved to generic multiple sclerosis medication. According to interim CEO Jeff Park, Diplomat also is closely eyeing the biosimilar market — the drugs can offer a discount of 10% to 15% compared with the original product.

“We view biosimilars as a key lever in managing the rising cost of specialty spend,” Park said. “Biosimilars have struggled to gain footing in the U.S. due to litigation. However, we expect the environment to become more favorable soon. This should lead to expanded biosimilar use and more affordable care.”

The company also keeps an eye on the specialty pipeline in an effort to build relationships with manufacturers ahead of time that can help secure access to limited-distribution drugs.

“We want to make sure patients receive the most effective treatment at a price they can afford,” Saban said. “Reviewing new generics and biosimilar products—incorporating cost-saving strategies as appropriate—these steps bring Diplomat closer to meeting these urgent needs.”

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